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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ambedkar celebrations in San Francisco

Following yesterday’s post announcing the run-up to the anniversary of Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism on October 14th, news is in of an ‘Ambedkar Month’ in San Francisco, organised by Jai Bhim International and the FWBO’s San Francisco Buddhist Centre.

Ann Dennehy of Jai Bhim says -

"on October 14th at the sfbc sangha night we’ll be celebrating with our buddhist friends around the world the 'diksha bhumi' or great mass conversion of 1956, when dr. ambedkar and 500,000 of his followers converted to buddhism, in nagpur, india.

"The theme will be 'the great mass conversion: spark for a buddhist revival in india'. I’ll introduce some background on this event, and there will be a video feed of dhammachari maitriveer nagarjuna, an order member and scholar in india, who will explain the history and significance of october 14th in our global buddhist movement. maitriveer will be speaking from nagpur in central india, where dr. ambedkar converted to buddhism over 50 years ago.

"More details of our other events at - or find us on Facebook".

For those wanting to know more, FreeBuddhistAudio hosts some great talks on the significance of Ambedkar and his conversion  - or check ‘Ambedkar and Buddhism’, available from Windhorse Publications.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

TBMSG activities expanding in North, South, East India.

The Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha, or TBMSG – as the FWBO is known in india – continues to expand the range and size of its activities. November through March are traditionally the season for ‘outreach’ and this year is no exception. In fact there are three large events coming up, in three corners of India -

North India
In North India we’ve heard from Maitriveer Nagarjun, a young Order Member studying for a higher degree at the prestigious JNU university, he says -

“Here I am sending you an image of the PAMPHLETS for another step ahead for the Dhammakranti (Dhamma Revolution) in NORTH INDIA. It’s difficult to organise in a New Place like Delhi, but I am feeling satisfied to contribute one more step in Delhi and for the rest of the states in NORTH INDIA.

“Subhuti (from England) will the main teacher. This Four-Day residential retreat, with food organized by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students for Social Human Welfare, will welcome people from all different cultures, communities and backgrounds to listen and study why we need BUDDHISM in human life, especially with reference to the work of BODHISATTVA BABASAHEB Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR. . Subhuti will lead the retreat with Dhammacharies at our Venue”.

Bodh Gaya
Next in this impressive calendar is a large 1000-person retreat to be held at Bodh Gaya, in North-Eastern India. They say –

“The 7th International Dhammakranti retreat will be held at Buddhagaya from 1st march evening to 6th march evening 2009.

“This will be the third and largest International Dhammakranti Retreat in Buddha Gaya organized by the Dhammakranti Social Institute, TBMSG, India. These retreats have already made a considerable impact throughout India, giving people from all castes and classes an opportunity to practice Dhamma together and form a Casteless Society in the true sense. In India this is truly a precious opportunity.

“The major attractions on the retreat are Meditation under the Bodhi Tree, Dhamma Talks, Buddhist Rituals, Group Discussions & Cultural Activities. All present will be making a contribution to reviving the Dhammachakra (Dhamma Revolution) in the World. Dhammachari Subhuti will lead the Retreat. The retreat will be held at the Nyingma Monastery in Buddha Gaya.

“For more details please contact us at tel 0091-9371181404. Thank you”.

Tamil Nadu

And 1,500 miles away, in a completely different landscape, language, climate and culture – but still in India – we’ve heard from a group of graduates from TBMSG’s training program at Nagaloka. They say -

“Dear Dhamma Friends, Namo Buddha. Buddha.

“The Friends of Nagarjuna Training Institute (NTI) is organizing the first Mass Retreat in Tamil Nadu, India from 12th March evening to 15th March evening 2009. This retreat is organized to gather around 300 people from South India. It is a good opportunity to learn and practice the Dhamma with hundreds of followers of Buddha and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. This is truly a precious opportunity in South India to bring people together irrespective of class, caste and religious background. These retreats may have a considerable impact on society and an opportunity to explore the importance of practicing Dhamma to establish a casteless society in the true sense.

“The major components of the retreat are Group Meditation, Dhamma Talks, Buddhist Formalities, Chanting Buddhist songs, Group Discussions and Buddhists Cultural Activities. Dhammachari Lokamitra, a Buddhist spiritual leader will lead the Retreat. The retreat will be held at Shanthi Nilayam, Vedamary Community College, Mambazhapattu Road, Perumpakkam, Villupuram Dist, PIN – 605 301. Tamil Nadu.

“Many people from very poor economic backgrounds are expected to participate in the retreat. A donations scheme is being set up to help many of them to attend this. Your donation will help the Revival of Buddha Dhamma movement in South India. Come and join this historic event to transform our society in to a New Society – based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and fulfill the dream of Bodhisattva Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

For more details please contact us: email: mobile: + 91 9841 255 342 web:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First retreat for NNBY Youth in Delhi

Maitriveer Nagarjun delivers a Dhamma talk at TBMSG's Dhammachakra Buddhist Centre in DelhiMaitriveer Nagarjun, a young India Order Member studying at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, has sent us this report of NNBY’s first big retreat in the Indian capital. NNBY is India’s National Network of Buddhist Youth, started a couple of years ago by Order Members from TBMSG’s Dhammakranti ‘outreach’ project.

Maitriveer writes –

“For the first time, in the capital of the country – Delhi, we organised a gathering of the youth for four days. It was an energetic and inspired retreat, organised successfully by the National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) and Dhammachakra Buddhist Centre; our newly opened TBMSG Centre in Delhi.

Approximately 120 Youths attended, coming from eight different states in North India (Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra , Madhya Pradesh, and even Ladakh). The Theme for the event was ‘Ambedkar and Buddhism for the Youth’, we met in the Ladakh Buddhist Monastery.

“Even though people came from all over North India and were from different regions , cultures and Castes, they were able to form a common vision for the Casteless society based on the teaching of the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the Buddha.

“The goal of the event was to infuse a new confidence and energy among the youths present; to make them sensitive to the spiritual life and to encourage them in their careers for the betterment of the fractured Indian society based on Caste. Most of the youths were from the so-called ‘Untouchable community’, so trying to understand the relevance of Buddhism in modern society in the light of Dr. Ambedkar’s Buddhist vision is of vital importance to them.

“NNBY and Dhammachakra Buddhist Centre is thankful for the Lama Londang Damchoe, Secretary of the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara, to the NNBY Nagpur team and the core team of the Prabuddha Bharat Vichar Manch, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

“With Maitri, Maitriveer Nagarjun”

NNBY is currently appealing for funds for their 2009 budget. They have created an on-line fundraising page introducing themselves, and are holding a world-wide sponsored meditation this coming Saturday night, the Full-Moon. Over 500 people are expected to take part in India, plus others in 7 countries.

Please see their special fundraising page at - all readers of FWBO News are invited to join us or to contribute! For the benefit of American readers, the FWBO's New York Sangha have created a dollar-based donations page at

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New TBMSG centre opens in Delhi

The inauguration of the new Centre premises in Delhi, July 2008
News of India comes today via an FWBO blogger with her ear to the ground in San Francisco - in her journal Jai Bhim International she writes:

"we are rejoicing in the opening of a new FWBO/TBMSG dhamma center in delhi, the dhammachakra buddhist centre.

"the center officially opened last sunday, with an inauguration led by its director, dhammachari maitriveer nagarjuna (shown leading the puja, left).

"over 50 people came to celebrate the new space on the prestigious jnu university campus: university students, buddhists representing other sanghas, as well as families from the local community. may this sangha continue to thrive!"

The new centre will serve as a base for the ambitious plans of TBMSG's Dhammakranti Project for new Dhamma classes in the four neighbouring States of Rajasthan, Hariyana Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, besides serving as a community base and training centre. 

During the opening ceremonies Lama Sumati from Bodhagaya, a long-time friend of Maitriveer Nagarjun, spoke, reminding people about Dr.Ambedkar's teaching that:

1. Buddhism is difficult to practice, so one must be brave to practice the Dhamma.
2. Dr. Ambedkar wanted his followers to be brave to revive the Buddhism.
3. There is no short cut to practice, so we need to work hard for the Buddha's teachings.

The new centre's first major event is already in preparation,  a North India Youth Convention to be held under the auspices of the new National Network of Buddhist Youth - the dates are 11-14 September 2008, in Delhi.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dalit art in Delhi

Maitriveer Nagarjun (shown left) is an Indian Order Member, studying at the prestigious JNU university in Delhi. Besides leading Dhamma classes at the university and travelling all over northern India to visit Buddhist local groups, he’s recently been helping organise ‘Eyes Re-Cast’ – possibly the first ever exhibition of contemporary art based on the philosophy of Dr. Ambedkar and the Buddha.

The painter, Savi Sawarkar, is India’s most eminent Dalit painter and print-maker. His art is angry, outspoken, and direct - causing Gary Tartakov, a professor at JNU, to comment "He doesn't sell real well [in India]. He sells internationally".

As if to bear this out, a simple Google search reveals an exhibition review from the Iowa State Daily in far-away America. They quote Eleanor Zelliott, a sympathetic academic who has for many years specialised in Dalit studies, and author of ‘Untouchable Saints: An Indian Phenomenon’. She comments "His art work targets Brahman orthodoxy. One painting which I find very touching is one of an untouchable carrying a dead cow across his shoulders, a comment on the traditional duty of the untouchable to carry carcasses from the village."

One painting that demonstrates Sawarkar's willingness to provoke is his interpretation of Manu, the great law-giver of India. Sawarkar portrays him as a monster because it was Manu who gave the laws that included the caste system that made Savarkar a Dalit. These laws made crimes against an untouchable insignificant, but crimes against Brahmans, the highest class, to be the worst thing a person could do. The Brahman view of Manu, by contrast, portrays him as prestigious and god-like.

You can see a small slideshow of Sawarkar’s paintings on FWBO Photos here – or see below. And if you happen to be in Delhi, go visit the Lalit Kala Academy Gallery, where the exhibition runs up to 30th April.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dispatch from Delhi

Saul is a mitra from the FWBO’s North London Buddhist Centre. Last month he travelled to India to team up with the Amida Trust, who have for some three years now been running English classes in Delhi under their ‘Buddhist voluntary service overseas scheme’. He sent FWBO News this report -

“I’ve recently finished two weeks teaching very large classes of children from slum areas in Shahadhara in east Delhi. At first I couldn’t cope with it, or I felt I couldn’t cope with it. Then I became rather accustomed to it and I've missed it on leaving.

Classes were hectic affairs with anything from 45 to 70 children there. Shabbily dressed with big open smiles and irrepressible enthusiasm. I say hectic because children were coming and going from the classroom during the class. When I commented on this I was told that it was better than before!

These classes were usually conducted in half built Buddhist viharas in the slum districts. The conditions were extremely basic. Blackboards, when there were any, were crude and basic. Power cuts would frequently plunge the vihara into darkness. Equipment minimal. Paper rare and books next to non-existent.

We travelled to these outreach classes on rickshaws or in auto-rickshaws “tuk-tuks’ through the chaotic Delhi traffic. All manner of traffic: bicycles, motor bikes, ox carts all vied with lorries, buses and cars. The rules were pretty minimal, nobody worried too much about traffic lights or the right of way, not everyone even drove on the same side of the road. I confess I found it all rather exciting.

Outside the vihara there was the seething mass of humanity: beggars and street vendors, endless stalls and tiny stores; incessant activity and the omni-present smell of sewerage. Sometimes our classes were conducted in order to increase the harmony in conflict torn communities. Occasionally they were in relatively harmonious Buddhist communities. Their poverty was what they all had in common.

After two weeks’ I was used to it! The classes were led by two spirited individuals – Shiasnu (Joy) and James Goodman – who against all odds managed to maintain their teaching. We were working for ADEPT – the Amida Delhi Education Project Team. At first I can’t say I really I really warmed to their approach, which involved lots of song and movement. Then I realized that actually it did really work because it motivated and enthused the young learners. Mostly I’ve been used to teaching adults so it was a bit of a culture shock. The sessions with the children didn’t seem like ‘real lessons’ but then I'd been thrown into a situation where they didn’t necessarily have blackboards, only occasionally notebooks, and so on. Use of movement motivated them and they clearly enjoyed the classes. Whenever someone did well Joy would call out ‘give that child a sticker’ and they would proudly walk out to the front of the class to get their sticker. The teachers refused to allow any smacking to discipline the children and they tended to get overexcited and classroom control seemed problematic. Then I started to realize that they were actually succeeding in increasing the confidence and self-esteem of these children.

At first I found it all rather exhausting and overwhelmed by these classes. Delhi in midwinter was a hard way to start in India, not even the food would stay in my stomach! Everything, just everything had changed. But I got used to my little room on the roof of the block, even when the cold North West winds blowing off the Himalayas tried to invade it. My tolerance of noise shot up, and later, as I started taking tea at roadside cafes with the workers, neighbours started to recognize me, little routines started to take over – and then, so quickly, my stay there was over and it was time to take the train south to Nagpur and more English teaching with the TBMSG’s many projects there…

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ongoing actions in support of Burma…

Events across the FWBO continue to be held to draw attention to the situation in Burma and build support for peaceful change there.

In Birmingham, around 70 people from the Birmingham Buddhist Centre – and others from Birmingham’s Inter-Faith Network - walked in a silent ‘yatra’ from the Town Hall along the main shopping street on a crowded Sunday. They gave out several hundred leaflets, explaining the situation in Burma and suggesting actions people could take in support of the Burmese people.

In Edinburgh, a group led by Kalyanavaca, the Centre’s Chairwoman, meditated in the City Centre, and gave out leaflets passing on Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous request to “use your liberty to promote ours”.

In Delhi, Maitriveer Nagarjun, an Indian Order Member, who is one of the core team for TBMSG’s Dhammakranti Project, helped organised a large public meeting at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University where he is a post-graduate student. This was attended by Burmese survivors of the last military crackdown in Burma, and a signature campaign was organised calling on the Indian Government (one of Burma’s chief supporters) to cease investment until democracy and human rights have been restored to Burma.

In Poona, India, the Jambudvipa Trust, an FWBO/TBMSG ‘outreach’ project is contributing to discussions with the aim of organising a visit to Burma by senior Buddhist peacemakers.

Finally, Dayaratna, in Cambridge UK, would like to hear from anyone wanting to continue to support Burma, specifically by putting pressure on China, via the 2008 Olympics, to change its ‘hands-off’ policy towards the regime in Burma. Contact him if you would like to be part of this.

As Cait, organiser of the Birmingham Yatra, said, “We cannot know the outcome of our actions, but we hope that we have helped to keep the issue alive in the minds of those who saw us.”

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

New map of FWBO/TBMSG in India

A new map is available on-line of all FWBO/TBMSG groups in India. Click here to see it and/or download it from the FWBO Photos site on flickr.

This is probably the first time all of our many centres and groups in India have been collected and made visible in this way. Comments and corrections welcome. For contact details for the centres go to the TBMSG website; for contact details for the smaller groups the best is to try Nagaloka, Dhammakranti outreach project, or the Jambudvipa in Pune

There are also maps on the flickr site for the FWBO's centres and groups in Europe, the UK, and around the world.

You might also like to try exploring Google maps and searching for 'FWBO' or 'TBMSG' - in many cases, incuding in Inda, it is possible to zoom in to a street-level view of our actual centres. Check the Mahavihara in Pune for intance.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dhammakranti team begin 2007 season

In India, the Dhammakranti team are starting their 2007 season with an ambitious event in Delhi.. Subhuti, Suvajra, and Lokamitra will all be participating in a seminar aiming to spread awareness of Dr. Ambedkar and his vision for a casteless society.

This is part of a determined strategy to spread our activities beyond the geographical borders of Maharastra, heartland of Buddhism in India and home to 60 million people – but a fragment of the whole of India. It is also part of their effort to highlight the abuse of fundamental human rights implicit in the widespread caste discrimination still practiced in India. See for some of their work.

In this respect we are delighted to note the recent comments made in the UK’s House of Commons and House of Lords – both have recently seen debates in which members have strongly condemned the practice of casteism and the plight of the Dalits.

The event will be held on 25,26,27, May, 2007 at the Ladakh Buddhist Monastery - near ISBT, Bela Road , New Delhi, India. All are welcome and entry is by donation.

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